Some notes, quotes and observations from Monday morning’s practice:
DL Vonnie Holliday said in a text message that he will report to the Arizona Cardinals to complete Sunday’s trade for RB Tim Hightower. Holliday, a 13-year veteran, did not say whether he was contemplating retirement. Asked if he had to play another year to be eligible for the improved retirement benefits expected to be in the new CBA, he wrote, “Not sure…”
Hightower is expected to join the Redskins on Monday afternoon.
“He can run, he can pass protect,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s a third-down back.”
Using Hightower on third downs would spare Ryan Torain some wear as he looks to put his injury woes behind him. Plus, Torain was a liability in pass protection last season, especially early on. He got a bit better with experience, but nothing Shanahan could rely on at this point. RB Keiland Williams was a serviceable third-down back a year ago in his rookie season; he was much better than Torain at picking up pass rushers. But Hightower is an all-around upgrade because he’s been productive on first and second downs.
Rookie LOLB Ryan Kerrigan missed his fourth practice because of a bone bruise in his right knee. Shanahan said the swelling in Kerrigan’s knee is down, and the blood that had collected in the area has dispersed. He’s day-to-day.
“It really has come a long way in a couple days,” Kerrigan said.
The Redskins will sign 10-year-veteran K Shayne Graham to compete with incumbent Graham Gano, Shanahan confirmed. Graham ranks third on the NFL’s all-time field goal percentage list (85.95 percent).
Gano had no competition in camp last summer and went on to miss an NFL-high-tying 11 field goals last season. Coaches are convinced that his problem is mental, they want Graham to push him.
“I welcome competition,” Gano said. “It only makes you better.”
Gano was involved in a fun scene at the end of practice. The field goal team lined up for a 37-yard attempt while the rest of the team huddled around them and tried to distract Gano. They yelled and coaches blew air horns. Gano made the kick.
“It always makes it exciting when that happens,” Gano said. “In Baltimore, they would pull my pants down and squirt water on me.”
I suppose if you can make a field goal with your pants down you’re gonna be an OK kicker.
We’ve discussed rookie WR Leonard Hankerson’s length as it relates to his ability to catch errant throws, but this morning it helped him another way. During team drills, he released freely off the line of scrimmage after slapping the cornerback with his left arm. Hankerson’s length enabled him to initiate contact before the defender could get his hands on him.
“He has a chance to work his releases and he can pull himself through on corners,” receiver coach Keenan McCardell said. “He’s a big target and has a big catch radius. Sometimes balls maybe are not on target, but with his big catch radius he’s on target.”
Hankerson made an acrobatic one-handed catch down the seam on a ball that QB John Beck threw low and behind him. He later dropped a pass over the middle, though. Drops plagued him at the University of Miami.
In case you missed it over the weekend, the Redskins re-signed RT Jammal Brown to a five-year deal worth $27.5 million that includes $8.25 million guaranteed. By comparison, Atlanta Pro Bowl RT Tyson Clabo signed a five-year deal that ESPN reported is worth a maximum of $27 million, which includes $11.5 million guaranteed.
Brown made the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2008, but that was as a left tackle and before his hip injury. How close the numbers in Brown’s deal are to Clabo’s indicates just how much the Redskins like him.
Offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who coached newly-signed RG Chris Chester from 2006-07 during Chester’s first two seasons in Baltimore, believes Chester could fit better in Washington’s offense than he did in the Ravens’ scheme.
“We’re obviously a zone running team; they are more of a gap-blocking team,” Foerster said. “A lot more of their stuff requires, at times, a guy to be a little more powerful. Our stuff, at times, requires a guy to maybe be a little more athletic or quicker. Chris fits the mold for us as far his footspeed and quickness for what is needed from the guard position.
Chester (6-3, 315) played tight end for part of his career at the University of Oklahoma and never was the prototypical gigantic lineman you often see in the NFL. Being undersized sometimes exploited a strength deficiency, but Foerster believes Chester’s experience at the position has helped him overcome that.
“Some guys are 290 pounds and they’re strong enough, but at the end of the day you’ve got to have some anchor because those [defensive linemen] are big guys,” Foerster said. “That’s where a guy like [Kory] Lichtensteiger and [Will] Montgomery have to have strength, size and very, very good technique if you’re going to be less than the biggest giant out there. Chris’ strength is very good now. He’s put weight on and has still maintained a lot of his foot quickness and speed. So I’m excited to work with him again.”
ILB Perry Riley has quick feet and can sharply change direction. That helped him on several pass plays during team drills. He ran stride for stride with FB Darrel Young after Young ran straight up the field and broke to the sideline. A couple plays later, he ran up to cover TE Fred Davis, stopped, turned and then ran with him down the field.
Riley also was active in run support during team drills. He finished a positive practice by stripping the ball from TE Chris Cooley on short dump-off. If he keeps it up, it’ll be clear why coaches are willing to give him a crack at the starting ILB job opposite London Fletcher.
QB John Beck threw consecutive interceptions to CB DeAngelo Hall during 7-on-7 drills. Hall read Beck’s intentions very early on both throws, and the picks came easily for him. Beck responded with two perfectly thrown passes to TE Fred Davis on deep outs. They were into windows that were all but non-existent. That Beck is inconsistent really is to be expected at this point because he hasn’t been in a team setting in a while. Let’s see if he improves on that through this week.
Australian P Sav Rocca is being delayed by visa issues, but Shanahan expects him to report to training camp soon. He can’t practice until Thursday morning, anyway.